fire is a good servant but a bad master

1615 T. ADAMS Englands Sickness 20 The world, like fire, may be a good seruant, will bee an ill Master.

1738 SWIFT Polite Conversation ii. 183 Why, Fire and Water are good Servants, but they are very bad Masters.

1808 J. ADAMS Works (1850–6) VI. 533 Like fire, they [i.e. the aristocracy] are good servants, but all-consuming masters.

1948 H. BESTON Northern Farm xxxvi. ‘Fire is a good servant but a bad master.’ So runs the proverb.

1973 J. CAIRD Murder Remote XX. Is not whisky the wonderful thing? But like fire, like fire—a good servant but a bad master.

Proverbs new dictionary.

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